Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
As the clock approached six hours of running, the Spa 24 Hours Blancpain Endurance Series race was running under a safety car for the third time. Once again, torrential rain battered the track, making it impossible for the cars to continue at full racing speed.
The #3 Marc VDS Racing BMW, which had held the lead for much of the race, pitted just before the safety car was deployed. This proved to be a major disadvantage for the crew of Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala, as the car was held at the pit exit while the safety completed its lap. A similar fate struck Marco Bonanomi in the #2 WRT Audi R8, but his team-mates in the #1 were more fortunate: Stephane Ortelli, Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase held the lead as the field circulated behind the safety car.
Other news since the last update includes Adam Christodoulou's exclusion from the race due to his clash with Andre Lotterer at the pit entry – although his three co-drivers in the Lapidus Racing McLaren will be able to continue. The incident looks to have put paid to any chance of victory for the illustrious #6 Audi crew of Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Tom Kristensen. “Regardless of the move the #62 made on me that ruined our race; I have to say that Spa has the worst pit entry. I miss the old bus stop,” Lotterer wrote on his personal Twitter account. “It's such a shame. Our crew worked so hard the last few days and we were running very well. Now it's just about finishing.” Tom Kristensen was at the wheel, and running 47th overall, at 10pm.
Confirmed retirements after six hours include the #15 Boutsen Ginion Racing McLaren, after Marlene Broggi crashed in the rain; the #87 Cup-class Porsche, which pulled in with mechanical trouble early in the race; the #33 Pro GT by Almeras Porsche, due to a serious engine fire; and the #35 RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R, which suffered terminal electrical problems. Andrew Danyliw's crash under the first safety car ended the #37 DB Motorsport BMW's race and things are not looking good for the distinctive Emil Frey Racing Jaguar, either, which has taken up its familiar position in the garage with the engine compartment open.
The most serious retirement so far, however, was the #86 Cup-class Porsche 911, driven by Philippe Salini of the RMS team His car aquaplaned off the track and hit the wall hard in the run-up to the Bus Stop chicane, which caused the race's second safety car. Salini was taken by ambulance to the local hospital in Verviers for a check-up, but his condition is not believed to be critical.
As the clock neared 10pm at Spa, the safety car was withdrawn and green-flag racing resumed again. Christopher Haase in the #1 WRT Audi R8 held the lead from Andrea Piccini in the rival #16 Audi of Team Phoenix and former leader the #3 Marc VDS BMW. The sister #2 WRT Audi, currently being driven by GT1 World Championship regular Laurens Vanthoor, is fourth.
The fifth-placed #5 Boutsen Ginion Racing car is the leading McLaren MP4-12C, and the British machines have so far exhibited better reliability here than has been the case earlier in the season. But excessive tyre wear is believed to still be a problem for the McLaren teams – with both Gulf Racing's Rob Bell and ART's Duncan Tappy reporting that they were struggling to make their rubber last for a double stint.